September 18, 2015 Published by Leave your thoughts
  • Sephora is the first place she goes to browse beauty products, according to 87% of women surveyed.
  • She finds Sephora appealing, stylish, trendy and fun, and trusts that it carries only brands and products that work.
  • She doesn’t think of Sephora as “grab and go.”
  • Sephora is a magnet for women of all ages, but millennials are the most engaged in every way.
  • She trusts the brands Sephora carries.
  • The Sephora shopper loves the “made for her” feel of the shopping experience, but she doesn’t want it to feel “salesy.”
  • In-store perks and special offers have a high rate of conversion for the Sephora shopper.

The Benchmarking Company’s newly published “2015 PinkReport: The Sephora Shopper” gives beauty brands a unique and personal perspective on each generation of consumer who shops at the beauty retail giant, whether they shop in-store or at

The report delves deeply into her shopping habits, purchase influencers, buying patterns and spending triggers, as well as her affinity for Sephora’s loyalty program, her use of technology pre-purchase and in-store, brands she buys and loves most, and the reasons she goes over her intended budget at Sephora, time and time again.

The report also provides advice for beauty brands that want to sell at Sephora in a bonus section. Data tables and “Generational Flash” call-outs in the report cross-tabulate all survey responses by generation, defined as Maddie Millennial (age 18–24), Megan Millennial (age 25–34), Jessie Gen-Xer (age 35–49) and Barbie Boomer (age 50+).

Why Sephora?

Almost nine in 10 women surveyed who buy prestige-priced beauty products say they shop at Sephora, or both. Selling at Sephora is an equally big deal for beauty brands in this category.

Not only is Sephora second only to Macy’s as the world’s largest global retailer of prestige beauty, but the company is actively growing market share through its unique product mix, its technological innovation, and its understanding of how to forge a deep and meaningful understanding of its consumer to make women loyal ambassadors of the store and its products. When brands understand what the consumer looks for at Sephora, they are more equipped to provide exactly what she needs.

Her “Go To” Destination for Everything Beauty

Sephora is overwhel­mingly her “go-to” outlet for prestige beauty brands. Sephora is the first place she goes to browse beauty products, according to 87% of women surveyed, while 78% say it is the first place they go to purchase beauty products. Nearly 90% of women note visiting Sephora is a highly anticipated event. Why? Because she finds it appealing, stylish, trendy and fun, and trusts that Sephora carries only brands and products that work. gets equal love. Eighty-five percent of women surveyed claim is the first online site she goes to browse beauty products. It is also where she spends the most time browsing beauty products and, for 79% of the women surveyed, is the first site she visits to make a beauty product purchase.

It may be her “go to” for prestige products, but she doesn’t think of Sephora as “grab and go.” When it comes to browsing the lipstick bar, nail bar, store aisles or even the multitude of products online, she takes her time.

Nearly one-quarter of Sephora shoppers spend 41 minutes or longer in the store shopping. Forty-five percent spend 21–40 minutes shopping. In-store, 51% check out new looks, 44% of women take their time sampling products, 39% seek advice and 12% take advantage of the complimentary makeover. With so much in-store time, there is ample opportunity for brands of every size to woo her.

Every Woman, Every Age Loves Sephora, but it’s a Millennial’s World

Sephora is a magnet for women of every age group. The 18 year old visiting Sephora is just as enthralled as her 50-plus-year-old future self. Millennials represent the largest group of dual buyers, with 69% saying they shop in store and online, compared to 59% of gen-Xers and 49% of boomers.

Not surprisingly, boomers (76%) and gen-Xers (74%) have shopped Sephora for 3–10-plus years, with 69% of millennials shopping at Sephora during that time span. Millennials rank the Loyalty Program a stronger motivator than their counterparts, with 44% citing the Beauty Insider as an important reason they shop Sephora. Millennials spend the most time at Sephora, and they buy the most basic skincare products there, even if gen-Xers have the highest spending power.

Millennials are the most engaged in every way. Millennials have literally grown up with Sephora, most not knowing a time when department stores, drug stores, and grocery stores were the only options for buying beauty. This is the generation growing up with the Internet in her hand. It’s the generation that trusts authority least, and wants proof of efficacy before she buys. She’s the generation making a night of Sephora, sharing her love of Sephora on social media, and blogging about it. Capturing the hearts of Sephora millennials is crucial to success.

Loving that Loyalty

Trust and loyalty go hand in hand, and women overwhel­mingly believe Sephora carries brand names she knows and trusts. Sixty-one percent of Sephora shoppers and 55% of shoppers note it is a top reason to shop these outlets. Sephora boasts longevity in its customer relation­ships. Nearly one-in-three women have been shopping Sephora for five to 10 years.

This trust-based relationship translates to market share for Sephora’s private label brand of cosmetics. Eighty-six percent of women buy Sephora branded products, generally citing that they believe Sephora branded products are of the same or higher quality than other brands sold at Sephora.

Product selection isn’t the only reason Sephora shoppers are loyal. Sephora’s Beauty Insider is a big draw for the consumer who recognizes the benefits of a retail rewards program. Three quarters of Sephora shoppers (75%) are Beauty Insider card holders. More impressively, nine out of 10 women open their Beauty Insider emails and overwhel­mingly report that they are enticed to buy a product, research reviews, browse online or take advantage of special bonus point offers.

Sephora Harnesses the Power of Personal­ization and She Responds She walks into the store and experiences a multi-sensory picnic of pictures, samples, and salespeople. Couple this sensory smorgasbord with the personalized offerings such as Skincare IQ and Color IQ and it is hard for her to say no to something that is so perfect and personalized to meet her wants and desires. More than 80% of women note they usually purchase more products per visit at a Sephora than they do at any other beauty counter or store.

The Sephora shopper loves the “made for her” feel of the shopping experience, but she doesn’t want it to feel “salesy.” Women are responding to Sephora’s targeted ads, beauty tips and “recommended for you” campaigns in force with high purchase rates, with 77% noting these communiqués always (17%) or often (60%) result in a purchase.

She cares less about the information delivery method and more about the quality of communic­ation. For this reason, a Sephora crew member who is knowledgeable about products and brands that will meet her specific needs is a top influence in her purchase decision. More than 30% of women state that they have been swayed by a Sephora crew member to buy a product that was “perfect” for her.

Giving in to Impulse Eighty-four percent of Sephora-shopping women say they sometimes to always have a specific budget that they follow when shopping in-store or online; however, nearly a third of these women (29%) say they are not successful at keeping their Sephora purchasing within their budgets.

What puts her over the edge? Finding that perfect product (62%), a good sale (49%) and plain old impulse carries more than four in 10 budget-breakers to buy. The power of a positive product review as a budget breaker is especially big with millennials (40%), who regularly use their mobiles to check out a product before buying.

Tech-Savvy Consumers Love Tech-Savvy Sephora

Sephora’s use of technology to engage the customer is changing the in-store experience and creating a more substantial impetus for the at-home customer to come check it out and try out the new trends. Don’t worry, shoppers can experience Sephora’s integrated personalized technology offering at home or through their mobile device, and the stats show they are doing just that.

Twenty-eight percent of Sephora shoppers have accessed mobile offers in the six months prior to the execution of this study. At home, 44% of shoppers are taking advantage of the online tutorial videos on, while 11% used Beauty Talk to submit a question to a Sephora Pro.

In store, more than 31% of shoppers have utilized Color IQ to find the perfect foundation, matched to their skin tone and preference for formula. Skincare IQ has similar stats, with 32% using the high tech touchscreen to identify product recommen­dation based on skin concerns, skin type and sensitiv­ities. Poised for growth are Sephora’s newer tech offerings with 7% of consumers utilizing the Sephora Pocket Contour app, using the My Beauty app and using Flash.

Consumer Claims are Important to Her

Sephora shoppers love to surround themselves with prestige brands in-store, with sensory overload adding to the high. Standing out on the shelves that showcase beauty brand giants can be a challenge. Consumer claims on packaging and point-of-sale materials in-store, as well as claims on ads on, and great product reviews in general can make a huge difference in whether a brand gets noticed by a Sephora shopper.

After all, she’s savvier about claims then her non-Sephora-buying counterparts. Eighty-eight percent of Sephora shoppers find positive consumer claims on beauty products to be important to them, 94% want to see “honest feedback from women like me” and 94% believe that looking at product reviews before making purchasing decisions is important (see Figure 1).


Figure 1. Sephora shoppers and claims


Taking Advantage of the Sephora “Extra” She shops and she spends at Sephora, but does she take advantage of those enticing Sephora “extras,” and if she does, does it cause her to spend even more? We asked women who shop at Sephora whether they take advantage of the free makeup application when spending $50 or more at the store.

Do you take advantage of the free makeovers?

  • 6% every time
  • 7% regularly
  • 24% occasionally
  • 19% rarely
  • 21% weren’t even aware of this perk

Of those who take advantage of this perk, 63% admit that they occasionally or regularly make a purchase they were not expecting to make after receiving the makeover—a masterful marketing move by Sephora.

And those purchases are positive ones. Eighty-nine percent of women who spent more after the makeover say they never or rarely end up returning those items due to dissatis­faction.

Her Brand Favorites

If money were no object and she could pick up her favorite skin care and makeup brands at will, brands like Clinique, Urban Decay, philosophy and Bare Essentials hold exceptionally strong multi-generational appeal.

We asked this open-ended question to all women: “What is your absolute favorite skincare brand?” and “What is your absolute favorite makeup brand?” Her top three favorite skincare and makeup brands are revealed in Table 1.


Table 1. Consumers’ “absolute favorite” skincare and makeup brands, segmented by generation

Skincare: All Respondents Makeup: All Respondents
1. Clinique 1. Urban Decay
2. philosophy 2. Bare Escentuals/Minerals
3. Bare Escentuals/Minerals 3. Sephora branded makeup products
Skincare: Maddie Millennials 18-24 Makeup: Maddie Millennials 18-24
1. Clinique 1. Urban Decay
2. Bare Escentuals/Minerals 2. Too Faced
3. philosophy 3. Benefit Cosmetics
Skincare: Megan Millennials 25-34 Makeup: Megan Millennials 25-34
1. Clinique 1. Urban Decay
2. philosophy 2. Bare Escentuals/Minerals
3. Bare Escentuals/Minerals 3. NARS
Skincare: Jessie Gen-Xers 35-49 Makeup: Jessie Gen-Xers 35-49
1. philosophy 1. Urban Decay
2. Clinique 2. Bare Escentuals/Minerals
3. Bare Escentuals/Minerals 3. Sephora branded makeup products
Skincare: Barbie Boomers 50+ Makeup: Barbie Boomers 50+
1. philosophy 1. Bare Escentuals/Minerals
2. Clinique 2. Sephora branded makeup products
3. Bare Escentuals/Minerals 3. Urban Decay

Next: Her Shopping Behavior and Influencers

Next month, find out which top 10 brands she buys most often per product category, her uppermost spending limits per category, a map of where she visits first, second, third and beyond while at the store, her Sephora and terms of endearment, what is important to her in-store and when online at, what influences her most to buy, the “girlfriend-to-girlfriend” factor and how it serves to boost her Sephora spending, and more.

*Look for Part 2 in the October 2015 edition of GCI Magazine.


2015 PinkReport: The Sephora Shopper provides a detailed look at the U.S. female Sephora consumer, with extensive quantitative primary research. Thousands of U.S. women were invited to take part in these studies, with the first survey completed by 3,133 female beauty consumers who shop for beauty products either at Sephora stores, or elsewhere. A secondary quantitative survey was created to validate data from the first study and to probe more deeply into attitudes and behaviors by these shoppers and was completed by 1,773 U.S. female beauty buyers. The 2015 TBC PinkReport is an independent analysis of the Sephora shopper and was not commissioned or requested by the company. All analyses and investig­ations are independent and unbiased. Unless otherwise noted, all statistics in this report are based upon a sample size of women noted above who indicated they shop at Sephora or

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